It doesn’t get talked about often enough, but I honestly think that farmers have a superpower. They say a professional golfer can tell from just the backstroke of any golfer whether a ball is going to travel correctly or not. And I think farmers have a sixth sense kinda like that. I call it “The Farmer’s Sense.” 
Let’s say for example that you are a rancher, and you are looking over your herd of cattle on a typical workday. You notice one cow that stands out. You can’t put your finger on it exactly, but she doesn’t look quite right today. It could be her posture is a bit slumped, or maybe her gait is bit off, or her coat isn’t quite as glossy as the rest. I’m putting these descriptions into words right now, but the farmer’s sense is even more subtle than this. It’s more like a vague feeling. Almost impossible to describe. 
Trying to put it into words really defeats the purpose. There’s just something a bit off about that one cow on this one particular day. To the inexperienced eye, they all just look like cows. Sure, one of them may be brown, and this one has a white spot, or that one has a longer tail. But they all look more or less healthy. But for a rancher who has spent thousands upon thousands of hours watching her herd, one cow at a time, each of them from calf to full-grown adult; this rancher can identify even the slightest differences between a cow on a Monday, and the same cow on a Tuesday. 
Now, if you’ll indulge me a bit, I want to talk about why this Farmer’s sense is so important. It seems that every week there’s talk about all these amazing developments in robotics and artificial intelligence. The world is changing, they say. A lot of jobs are going to become unnecessary. A lot of people are going to be out of work. Is it true? 
Well sure, there is definitely some truth that some of these changes will make a lot of human jobs unnecessary. But you know what a robot can’t replace? Intuition. 
Now I’m not a luddite. I know that technology is responsible for some of the most amazing things we have today in the farming world. Although it seems quite romantic and quaint, going back to the horse-drawn plow just wouldn’t cut it today. I’m smart enough to know that.  
And to be honest, I am excited about all the opportunities that these new technologies will provide for the entire farming ecosystem. Having better sensors on all the crops out there, better software that can explain that data and make recommendations, having better logistics to make it a better market– all of these things are good things. These technologies are worth investing in.  
But I’m also not scared about the coming changes. You know why? Because some things are just too hard to put into numbers. They can’t be measured, and they can’t be quantified. Or if they can, it would cost way too much to do it. This is the saving grace of the farmer’s sense. This intuition, honed over thousands of hours, performs millions of little calculations automatically, all the time. 
Let’s look at anothere example. let’s say you are a berry farmer, and you are standing beside your field of beautiful strawberries on a pleasant sunny morning. What do you notice today? Mostly a sea of dark green, but there are gaps in the sea. These gaps appear seemingly at random. A few plants in the third row have a slightly different color, there’s a stretch in the fourth where there aren’t as many flowers. 
You might not be able to explain it to an apprentice, but you know that those sections need looking at. So you tell your crew. And what do they find? Those patches of light green were in fact a bit underhydrated. The sprinklers in those sections were stopped up. So you fix that before the plants get any worse, and a few days later, the “holes” in the sea have cleared up, and the sea is seamless once again. 
Each time your intuition proves correct, you grow a little bit more confident in it. Are you right all the time? Not hardly. But more often than not.  
This farmer’s sense is invaluable. No amount of training or education can teach this to a new farmer. No amount of technology or investment can do the same thing. It’s truly something wonderful. 
But how often do you really get to use this amazing skillset? We say that “the best fertilizer is the farmer’s footsteps.” But who has the time to walk the farm so often? It seems that every day, there is more pressure to spend more time inside, away from the plants and animals.  
Sometimes it feels like the modern farmer is driven to do everything except growing– fix this tractor, buy this new fertilizer, do the accounting this month, check in on the employees, find a replacement for this picker, call back the sales agent, plan the trip to the auction, check up on the quality control, and so on. And that doesn’t even address all the other things that have to be done outside of the farming enterprise- the personal life… 
The truth is, all those other activities are necessary, even beneficial. But is it the best use of the farmer’s time? Perhaps the farmer’s sense is the most valuable skill he has. It’s hard to put a number on it, but identifying issues early on is the best way to prevent problems from becoming fires. And those fires can become way more destructive if left undetected. 
It might be better to outsource all those activities to other people. It could mean hiring more employees, or finding contractors, or even paying another company to handle it for you.  
Is it cheaper to do it all yourself? Sure. But then you don’t have time to do what a farmer is truly good at, what makes him uniquely able to do what only a human can do.  
Otherwise, maybe it would actually be better to replace him with a robot. 

Written by Kirsten Simmons and Grant Schillings

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